By Aleksandra Bliszczyk
More parks and playgrounds, better road maintenance, and improved support for small businesses were among the top priorities the community wants the City of Whittlesea to focus on in its proposed Community Plan 2021-2025.
City of Whittlesea council has approved the proposed the plan for community consultation beginning August 20.
The plan merges previously separate documents into one, including the city’s council plan, municipal health and wellbeing plan, disability action plan and pandemic recovery actions.
It is now council’s main strategic document, or an ‘umbrella’ document, that has been put together after community consultation that involved more than 5500 pieces of feedback.
The 30-page document includes what council plans to achieve in the next four years, and details 60 council initiatives that have been developed in response to community feedback.
Each initiative is matched to one of five goals, including connected community, liveable neighbourhoods, high-performing organisation, sustainable environment, and strong local economy.
Feedback gleaned from the community also included improved waste management and increased amount of trees and protection of biodiversity.
Initiatives vary from broader aims, such as improving community safety in public spaces for people with a disability or women or gender-diverse people, to more specific projects including building a new leisure and wellbeing centre in Mernda and building more new netball courts across six suburbs.
Initiatives and services included in the plan have been considered in the annual budget 2021-2022, which budgeted $2 million for the participatory budget process to allocate recovery funding, as well as $1.5 million for major initiatives.
At the most recent council meeting, chair administrator Lydia Wilson called the consultation process ‘enormous’ and praised the more than 1300 people whose feedback informed the plan.
“This is an incredibly important four-year plan and we are currently seeking further community comment and feedback because we’re really keen to know whether the current plan reflects community perspectives. Have we got it right, have we missed anything, what is the general feedback?” she said.
“I just want to also acknowledge that the report clearly outlines there’s been a huge amount of consultation that has occurred, not just from the data that has previously been provided to council, but over a couple of months directly for this current plan.”
The plan also pulls together government and council data on each suburb, including population growth and demographics, which administrator Chris Eddy said made the document readable and interesting.
“It’s not a hard read, it’s actually a really good read, the statistics are really enlightening in explaining the population growth and the way our community is changing, and it really gives you a snapshot of what we’re dealing with in the City of Whittlesea in the time to come,” Mr Eddy said.
“This is a significant item, one of the most important tasks I think us as a council to adopt this community plan to take through this term and beyond.”
Mr Eddy also questioned council chief executive Craig Lloyd about the decision to merge the other documents into one, but Mr Lloyd said it would not detract from the plan’s focus.
“The way we’re planning on maintaining focus is by having a central, single tracking and reporting system, so whilst we are monitoring a whole lot of moving parts at once, I think it’s actually going to be simpler than it was previously having all those separate documents,” Mr Lloyd said.
“The beauty of having this one single plan is we’re able to integrate a lot of the actions as well, so rather than having standalone actions, which are only partly measurable, all of these actions will be measurable across this plan.”
Administrator Peita Duncan said she looked forward to seeing the final feedback from the community and encouraged residents to read the document.
“It’s very heartening to know that our residents really do care and want to offer their ideas and what they would like to see for their city,” she said.
“I really would like to encourage everybody, during the last phase of the consultation process, from August 20 to September 20, to provide your last-roll-of-the-dice feedback back to us so that we can then adopt the plan in late October.”
Residents and groups have an opportunity to see how their input has influenced the proposed plan and propose any changes before the final document is adopted at an additional dedicated council meeting on October 25.